Written By: Hiro Arikawa
Final Overall Rating: 8/10
First of all, this review is purely derived from my own personal opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments; I am always up for a good discussion or to answer questions.
Recommend Yes or No:
Yes, if you love cats and tragedy and beauty, please, get your hands on this novel. It is an amazing piece of fiction, and Arikawa captures the nature of a cat with more authenticity than works I have read previously. This book is a love story but does not follow a love based in romance. The Travelling Cat Chronicles boasts of the love of friendship and companionship whilst simultaneously exploring the nature of both man and animal. I read this book in one evening, and at 12 A.M. (well past my usual 9:30 P.M. bedtime) my husband found me in some sort of a laughing/crying combination (but mostly crying). Any book and/or author that can infuse both comedy and tragedy in parallel is definitely worth reading.
(Spoilers Below – Read at your own peril!)
Writing Style: 7/10
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is written from a first-person point of view and narrated in past tense. This novel heavily relies on dialogue, and it would not have worked had Arikawa’s structure or intent been vague or confusing. However, Arikawa’s dialogue is smooth, clear and always with purpose. My one issue with the writing is Arikawa’s tendency to tell readers what is happening, rather than show them. This habit did slow my reading down. And, as a result, my mind occasionally found itself elsewhere during the backstory portions of this novel. I want to taste and smell the fish, not just know the characters are eating it.
Told from the perspective of Nana, the cat, Nana embarks on a journey with his companion Satoru, and they visit several of Satoru’s longtime friends. Through these adventures, Nana explores the complex and silly nature of humanity. And, being the lucky cat that Nana is, the journey is destined to end in love. After many failed attempts at finding Nana a new home, you realize this journey is not about merely rehoming a cat. No, it is about Satoru needing to find the courage to say one last good-bye to his loved ones. And he garners that strength from his feline companion, Nana. I don’t think he ever planned on giving Nana away; he simply needed an excuse to see old friends one last time. Afterall, if he needed to borrow Nana’s strength to say good-bye to his loved ones, then he was going to need Nana’s strength to find peace in death. And Satoru does find peace. I would not change a single aspect of the story.
Character Development: 7/10
The character development is all accomplished through Nana’s opinions, the character’s dialogue, and backstory. As a result, we learn about the vast character set based on each individual character’s decision to choose fight or flight in various situations (this is very important to Nana). We also learn about the characters through food, since that is a central focus for Nana (he is a cat after all). And, finally, every new character is provided a significant backstory. This allows readers to see how far not only Satoru has come in his journey of life, but it also allows you to see the growth of his friends and family. Nana does not care much about the backstory though; he only cares about how Satoru’s friends make Satoru feel. And, you know from the start Nana will never abandon Satoru – because you don’t abandon family. My main issue with the character development was that some of the backstory lacked the smoothness of in the rest of the novel – it felt like a backstory (if that makes sense). My favorite method of backstory is when the reader experiences the flashbacks through the character’s actions and internal thoughts. This provides a more seamless transition in my experience.
Fun Facts about Hiro Arikawa:
- Hiro Arikawa is from Tokyo.
- The Travelling Cat Chronicles “is a bestseller in Japan and is due to be published around the world.”
Favorite Quote from The Travelling Cat Chronicles:
- “Because cats are creatures that can say no” (Arikawa 62).
- “How could I ever leave him, having experienced that kind of love? I will never, ever, leave him” (Arikawa 192).
Death is a part of life, but do not forget to enjoy the simple beauties life provides along the journey. And, do not be afraid, because, “someday, we will meet all those people again, out beyond the horizon” (Arikawa 277).
Arikawa, Hiro. The Travelling Cat Chronicles. New York: Penguin Random House LLC, 2015. Print.